We all know the tales of the costs of divorce. Tens of thousands spent in lawyer fees. Especially for the good fathers out there, who the law does not favour one little bit, fighting for shared custody, fighting for equal rights in regards to their kids, fighting to enforce agreements, fighting what is best for them. We have spent a literal fortune fighting for those kids.
So, we all know that story and we all think we know the cost. But the cost of an ex-wife is so much more than just lawyer bills.
First, there’s the support payments. Even with 50/50 custody and her being remarried, we still pay his ex-wife $500 a month child support. She is currently on mat leave with her 4th child (with her new husband) and she is laughing to people about how much more we’ll have to pay next year because of her leave. And that’s money we don’t have. We will likely have to sell our house to pay her extra support to fund the mat leave for the baby she had with the man she cheated with and left Curtis for. The law is supposed to make it so that they kids have an equal life at both houses. She just bought a house worth way more than ours, she has tons of expendable income to buy them anything they want and take them on lavish vacations, where we scrimp and save and borrow just to give the kids something a little nice. We will have to sell our house to maintain her level of spending and she is laughing. How is that an equal life?
We could fight it, and incur more legal costs fighting it, and hope we can at least maintain the $500/month status quo, but the law doesn’t have a lot of grey to protect fathers in that way.
She tells the kids how much money we have and makes a big deal about buying them whatever they want, portraying us as the rich people who won’t buy them anything. They know they can have whatever they want at their mom’s. So we try our best to keep up in the ways that we can, the name-brand clothes they want, day trips.
We try to make up the difference as best we can with quality time and sports. We pay for all their sports and their sports equipment. She won’t let them go to sports on her time (because it’s more time with us), so we give up our quality time in recompense so she will let them go most of the time. We’ve already been told that one would be on a rep baseball team this year if we can get him there, so we are trying our best to find ways to make it happen. Those are costs no one figures. And their agreement says that there is no time to be given back, but what is agreed upon in court is not what happens in reality.
On top of the physical cost and the loss of time, there’s also the emotional cost. So much time and energy is spent fighting her, or worrying about what she’ll do and adjusting our behavior before it’s an issue. We drive different ways to avoid seeing her (which is hard since she just moved around the corner from us), we fold the “M” clothes separately so we can send them in her clothes on her days and make sure she gets them back, we keep an extra set of everything (shoes, hats, mitts, boots, snow suits) at our house in case she doesn’t send them since it is difficult to get these things from her, (as I mentioned) we give up our time with them so they can play sports-full time… and these are just a few. The worst is that we let her get away with bad behavior where we have the legal and moral high ground (such as meeting with the school and teachers behind Curtis’ back, not telling him about doctor’s appointments, changing doctor’s appointments deliberately to make it work for her and not work for Curtis, not telling us she was in the hospital over night, and so on) because we’re afraid of the consequences. She’s mean and a bully and she doesn’t seem to care about the effect that will have on the kids… so we have to. And the emotional toll is great. Curtis tries his best not to let it affect us, but that doesn’t always happen. So sometimes we fight about her or because of her… sometimes we let her win.
If it was just her, that would be one thing. The ex-in-laws are in town as well… they go between spreading rumours about Curtis to make his ex look better, to complaining about her behind her back, to trying to fight for the kids when it comes to sports, to supporting her so they don’t have family issues (going so far as to turn the kids’ heads so they don’t see us)… Her sister and her parents will sometimes act like nothing is wrong and chat away like we’re besties (umm… seriously?) and will sometimes act like we have the plague. The emotional costs are never ending. I personally find the whole lot of them – the ex, the ex-in-laws, the new husband – terribly stressful. For me, the ex pretends I’m not there. Literally acts like I don’t exist. It’s less aggressive than it used to be, though. She doesn’t glare at me before putting her nose in the air anymore, or deliberately turn her back to me… I’m just not there. And for the most part I’m ok with it because it’s one less stress to deal with.
There’s one further cost that affects only me. And probably because I let it. She makes me insecure. About myself as a parent, about how I look… I feel like I constantly live in her shadow. It’s not that I don’t understand my role as a step-parent, I completely do. It’s little things like how she is organized enough to beat us to doing things and dictate the terms of it all (sometimes because Curtis doesn’t get his butt in gear and I have to be able to live with that), or how she had a baby and was up and about and taking the kids on trips the next day, or the fact that she had a baby a month ago and she is already back to being half my size while I sweat my butt off and swear off carbs just to lose 1lb in that same month. She is putting the image of a super mom out there and while I know it’s not that simple, I’m buying what she’s selling. She makes me question my worth… and that is one of the biggest costs because it affects how I act (for better and worse). I am trying to be the best I can be, I am always trying to compensate and be a better (step)parent… but I am also letting her win and make me doubt myself and that’s not good for anyone.